Slovenia (2018) Dir. Darko Stante
When will we learn actions have consequences? Not all of them have to be bad but common sense should dictate weighing up the risks before engaging in any activity is always a prudent move. In the event of disaster, even the smallest hope is some hope.
Andrej (Matej Zemljic) is an 18 year-old delinquent whose refusal to tow the line and anti-social behaviour is driving his mother Milena (Rosana Hribar) crazy. After hitting a girl at a party, Andrej is brought before a court and sent to a juvenile detention centre as punishment. There he finds out the hard way that the top dog is a sociopath named Zele (Timon Sturbej) but they soon become friends.
Since there is little in the way of discipline at the centre, the inmates are able to run amok and Andrej is soon caught up in doing Zele’s bidding. During weekends off, Zele, Andrej, and Zele’s pal Niko (Gaspar Markun) hit the town with an itinerary of stealing, drugs, and partying with girls. But Zele is more dangerous than Andrej knows and finds himself questioning his life decisions.
Consequences is a daring and brash debut for Darko Stante, something it shares with its obnoxious characters to make this an authentic teen crime drama with distant echoes the cult British prison classic Scum. Much like the cast, Stante has no qualms in being confrontational in depicting modern youth throwing their lives away under such lawless pretences, though it is this absence of control that is equal called into question.
Rebellious teenagers have existed since the dawn of time though modern history would insist it began with the invention of rock and roll music in 1955, but sadly it seems that each passing generation begets a more violent and disruptive delinquent than before. It is no stretch to declare the youth as portrayed in this film have little to no redeemable qualities, making it as sad as it is disturbing to watch.
Andrej is relatively small time as a disobedient figure, refusing to attend school, defies all authority, and has a rap sheet of petty crimes to his name. His attack of the girl at the party at the start of the film occurs after they sneak off to the bedroom but Andrej can’t (or won’t) get excited for her, striking her for accusing him of leading her on all night.
Hinting there may be something more to Andrej than his brooding anger, the truth comes to light on one of the many extended getaway weekends with Zele and his civilian mate Miki (Dominik Vodopivec). The trio end up in bed together, despite Zele having a girlfriend, Svetlana (Lea Cok), leading to Andrej believing he and Zele have a special bond.
The most interesting observation is how there are no questions or judgemental reactions to the same sex interactions, as if it was a normal occurrence. Guys dance and smooch with girls then sleep with guys and not a single eyelid is batted – unusual for a group where the alpha male mentality is a primary driving force behind their stranglehold back at the centre.
Zele’s reign of terror there includes bullying, extortion, drug dealing, and violence if debts aren’t paid, with Niko doing most of the legwork and Andrej now added as extra muscle, believing he is earning points with Zele. But Andrej learns Zele films everything on his phone for blackmail purposes and guess who stars in his latest video? Now we know how this relationship is going to end up and quite typically, it isn’t pretty, though it isn’t as if Andrej wasn’t warned or had regular reminders regarding actions and consequences.
And this is where Stante draws attention to the flaws of the adults. The staff at the centre are hopeless, showing no authority or punitive recourse for the verbal abuse they receive and flagrant disobedience, so what is the point of sending these lads there if they are still allowed to run riot?
For the viewer this is frustrating to watch and understand, as the beleaguered parents are hoping the centre will straighten out their troublemaking kids; then again, the core inmates are a lost cause who have cocooned themselves into their carefree and hedonistic lifestyle and to hell with the rest of the world. Stante might be accused of glamorising this decadent way of life but his depiction is so gritty and raw this doesn’t come across at all.
More likely it will make audiences lament that the next generation are so wilfully driving themselves towards a steep cliff edge with no intention of stopping. Andrej realises this too late but finds himself resigned to his fate and with Stante leaving things open this may be Andrej’s lasting legacy. Remarkably, he has a softer side, caring for a pet rat Fifa, and finds sanctuary in a kids playground when he has nowhere to sleep.
These rarely seen qualities in Andrej are subtly essayed by Matej Zemljic whose boyish looks contrast the stoic truculence and solipsistic aggression raging beneath his physical appeal. But whilst this side of Andrej is fleeting, Zele however is 100% remorseless maniac, portrayed with chilling conviction by Timon Sturbej, a frightening representation of modern nihilistic anarchy.
With nobody in this film looking good – even Andrej’s parents have given up on him though who can really blame them? – Stante paints a bleak picture of a society where a balance between punishment and clemency can’t be found to prevent the disaffected youth from themselves. There is no blame proportioned, just cold hard facts to reiterate everyone has their limit and the fallout will be tragically different.
Consequences does little to offer a glamorous view of Slovenia, but by shocking us with this gutsy but grim, sledgehammer look at universally volatile problem, Stante has made a film that demands we sit up and take notice of a world outside our windows, even if it is not all that dissimilar to ours.